You Say 'Mommy Wars,' I Say 'Healthy Debate'

by Maria Guido
Originally Published: 

If you have a child and you’ve disagreed with another mother about anything, ever — you’re probably familiar with the term ‘mommy wars.’ When a woman has the nerve to voice an opinion on parenting, she’s quickly accused of fueling this imaginary war. For some reason, the general public has decided that moms should agree on everything all the time. If they don’t, they’re accused of not “supporting each other.”

Excuse me, what? Why the hell should people whose only commonality is that they happen to have children agree all the time? That doesn’t even make sense.

I’m not denying that in some internet parenting arguments, people can come off as sanctimonious and judgy. But that happens when people disagree about many things. Try going to a comment thread with opposing sports teams. Or different political affiliations. Or different ideas about education. People can get downright nasty when they disagree. But for some reason, there’s no terminology that trivializes their fight. Add the term “mommy” to something, and immediately it’s unimportant. So of course we shouldn’t be arguing about it. Why bother? Who cares?

Are you telling me the woman who spends her day buried in diapers and demanding children is not allowed to have a viewpoint about the very thing she’s engaged in 24 hours a day? Or maybe she’s allowed to have an opinion, but she just needs to make sure to word it in such a way so she comes off as completely supportive of all other parenting choices, all the time. Why? Show me a cross section of society that is expected to be as agreeable as mothers. Is there one?

Your views on parenting are just as important as your views on politics, education, social issues — but no one would ever expect you to agree on any of those other topics all the time. Move into the realm of parenting, and all of a sudden all mothers are expected to share one giant megamind and support and love each other constantly. Yeah, that would be great. But it’s unrealistic — and frankly, really sexist. It’s the 2015 version of being forced into the kitchen after the dinner party, making nice with all the other wives and cleaning while our husbands are around the card table smoking cigarettes and debating the issues of the day.

The term “mommy wars” was first used in the 1980′s in Child Magazine, to describe the tension between stay at home moms and those who chose to return to the workforce. It was literally created by the media. Now it’s a myth perpetuated by it, thrown around whenever mothers debate anything. We’ve been sold on the idea that women should never disagree — and if they do, they’re simply being catty or judgmental. Why?

It’s not a “mommy war” — it’s a difference of opinion, about something we all take very seriously and that consumes our lives. We’re allowed to have those. If someone thinks breast is best, or co-sleeping is the only way to raise functional kids, or TV is the best babysitter, ever — why wouldn’t we debate these issues like we’d debate any other issues in our lives? If it relates to parenting, why are women expected to wear a muzzle with a giant smiley face drawn on it?

As women, we’re expected to be agreeable, and we’re penalized when we aren’t. Research shows men get ahead for being disagreeable in the workplace, women don’t. And that can be extrapolated to many other aspects of a woman’s life — including the way she approaches being a mom.

Telling a mother to stop voicing her opinions or “judging” is akin to telling her to “smile.” It’s dumb. We shouldn’t be expected to punctuate every idea that we have with “but whatever you do is great, too! Yay, you!” We express our opinions and find our tribe in every other aspect of our lives. Expecting mothers to be agreeable and supportive at all times is just silly.

“My way is right, yours isn’t” is not a new concept: it’s the starting point of every debate about anything. Do you know what ideally happens when people debate things? They learn from each other. It’s not a “mommy war,” it’s a difference of opinion. And there’s nothing wrong with those.

Related post: It’s Time To End The Mommy Wars

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